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Ashland teen in critical condition

Ashland High School senior athlete Maxwell Gordon remained sedated and in critical condition late Thursday after surviving a three-car crash near Eagle Point that killed his older brother Wednesday night.

Doctors at Rogue Valley Medical Center are attempting to assess injuries to the 17-year-old's head and spleen, said Steve Mitzel, an AHS football and swim coach.

"This is a wait-and-see situation," said Mitzel. "They want to keep him quiet and resting for the next couple days."

Nicholas Gordon, 20, was killed at the scene. The two brothers were on their way back from a two-day skiing trip to Mount Bachelor when the crash occurred at about 7 p.m. Wednesday on Highway 62 near the Willamette Egg Farm, Mitzel said.

Several of the football team's players and parents headed to RVMC Wednesday night after they heard the news, said head football coach Charlie Hall.

"One of his teammates just called me to say Max is semi-alert and they managed to get a two-thumbs-up from him," Hall said Thursday.

"This is encouraging news as initial reports were that he might not make it through the night," Hall added.

Max Gordon is an all-conference defensive back for the Grizzlies. He also played right field on an American Legion baseball team that won the state championship last year.

Although small in stature — standing 5-foot-7 and weighing 150 pounds — Max's physical strength and fighting spirit should stand him in good stead during this difficult time, Hall said.

"We don't give a lot of awards here at Ashland," said Hall. "But Max just won the Coach Dave Kitchell Award for Most Inspirational Player."

Kitchell died Nov. 18 at age 51 after a long battle with colon cancer.

The boys' parents are Stan and Michelle Gordon. Friends said the family was still reeling from the recent death of Michelle Gordon's father. Both brothers were very close to their grandfather, said Max Gordon's teammate Edwin Lee, 17.

"I'd just like everybody to pray as hard as they can for the Gordon family," said Lee.

Nicholas Gordon's co-workers at the Ashland Shop 'N' Kart were devastated to hear about the death of a young man they described as "uplifting, outgoing, honest and caring."

"Incredible sense of humor, incredible personality," said store manager Eric Chaddock.

Nicholas Gordon was an avid snowboarder, a pretty good guitar player and a great friend, said Eric Nelson, 27.

"That phone call last night was a huge nightmare," said Nelson. "It's amazing how many hearts and lives he touched."

Nicholas was very close to his younger brother, and proud of his successes on the playing fields, said Nelson.

"He spoke very highly of Max," he said. "He loved watching him go for it."

The crash occurred when Nicholas Gordon, driving southbound in a 1998 Subaru Impreza, entered the opposite lane to pass another car. A 2005 Toyota Highlander, driven by 77-year-old Erik Larsen of Shady Cove, was coming from the opposite direction. As Gordon attempted to swerve back into his lane to avoid a collision, his vehicle fishtailed back into the lane of oncoming traffic and was struck broadside by the Toyota, Oregon State Police officials said.

Larsen and his wife, Susan Larsen, 69, were both transported by ground ambulance to RVMC with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Eagle Point residents Walter Orange, 57, and Michelle Orange, 64, were not injured after their 2002 Hyundai sport utility vehicle struck the rear of the Toyota shortly after the crash.

OSP troopers closed down a large section of the highway for nearly three hours while investigating the crash.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

Max Gordon